Authored by Toby Kramer
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NOAH and the Town of Carlisle Celebrate the Opening of Benfield Farms

May 22nd, 2014 by Toby Kramer

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on May 13, 2014 to mark the completion of the beautiful, $9.8 million Benfield Farms development in the Town of Carlisle. The ceremony marked the culmination of more than 10 years of work by the community and the first affordable project in more than 34 years. The long-awaited development of Benfield Farms, 26 units of affordable, age-restricted rental homes, is especially important to many seniors who need affordable housing in order to stay in their community. NOAH (Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, Inc.), the Carlisle Housing Authority and the Town of Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust Fund collaborated for five years to plan the sustainable housing community located at 575 South Street in Carlisle. The project began construction April 2013, was completed in February 2014 and began occupancy March 1, 2014. It brings the town full circle from the decision to buy the land in 2004 to occupancy in 2014.

Benfield Farms is a bucolic 4.4-acre site framed by wetlands, an open meadow, and forest, located on the scenic road of South Street, about two miles from the center of Carlisle, a small rural community. The 26 units, in 28,160 square feet, are a mix of 17 one-bedroom units and nine 2-bedroom units that will be rented to households over the age of 62. These efficient apartments utilize the principles of universal design for seniors and the latest in energy efficiencies to provide climate control and lower energy costs. The building has three meeting spaces, an exercise room on the second floor, and a library and porch on the third floor. 

Benfield Farms will be a model of sustainable development, thanks to the ongoing assistance of Kim Vermeer of Urban Habitat Initiatives. Working closely with the Town of Carlisle, NOAH planned the project to minimize its impact on the 45-acre site. The completed building is eligible for LEED for Homes Certifiable at the Gold level and will seek certification from USGBC. Benfield Farms uses less than 10% of the site, and is located near the road to reduce paving and other infrastructure. 100% of the storm water will be channeled away from wetlands and used to recharge groundwater. Landscaping is designed with native, drought-tolerant plants that will not require irrigation once established. An all-electric heating and cooling system provides high efficiency energy and, to save on the future costs of electricity, the project is investing in a solar PV system. 

NOAH, a 26-year-old nonprofit community development corporation based in East Boston and MACDC member, served as the developer. Throughout the process, NOAH worked with the design team of DiMella Shaffer Architects (DSA), civil engineers Meridian Associates, and general contractor Dellbrook Construction. Peabody Properties serves the property manager and leasing agent for the project. The 4.4-acre site will continue to be owned by the Carlisle Housing Authority, which holds a 99-year lease with Benfield Farms LP. 

Affordable housing would not be possible without the public-private partnership of the funding programs that combine federal, state, and local funds with private sector investment. NOAH obtained an allocation of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and other soft loans from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Bank of America Merrill Lynch purchased both the federal and state Low Income Housing Tax Credits with close to $6 million in equity and a construction loan of $6,650,000. Mass Housing Partnership is providing a permanent mortgage of $1,450,000, which will go into effect once all the units are occupied. Town Community Preservation Act Funds were used as a $425,000 loan for the project in addition to the $2 million for the initial purchase of the Benfield property.

No one said affordable housing is easy; it takes a supportive village, patient developers, and creative financing.

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